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Live From The San Siro Stadium

Michael Ottolenghi Checks in from the San Siro stadium in Milan with an exclusive report from the Derby.

fans in the San Siro stadium

The new unpredictable Serie A more than lived up to its reputation last weekend, with some clear cut results in the key clashes at the top of the table. 

Defending Champions Juventus lost 2-1 to Lazio at the Juventus stadium, while Napoli took full advantage of their rivals’ latest slip up by opening up a five point lead over Juventus at the top of the table with their 1-0 away win against Roma. But the key fixture of last weekend was without doubt the dramatic Milan derby won 3-2 by Inter, which First Touch attended in order to bring this exclusive report.

These pages have chronicled the ups and downs that this fixture has been through over the past ten years, with the one constant feature being the very palpable presence of the derby on the streets of Milan in the days leading up to the game. And this year brought the added twist of the first fully Chinese derby, as the owners of both clubs have had time to bed in and understand the city, selling all things Milan across China.

Welcome To The San Siro

The throngs of Chinese tourists bedecked in replica shirts from Piazza del Duomo to San Siro are testament to the marketing success Chinese ownership has brought, although the imposing but dilapidated stadium is a reminder of both unfulfilled promises and the magnitude of the task ahead for both clubs.

On the pitch, Inter entered the game with seven more points in the table than Milan, although their performances under new manager Luciano Spalletti had not been particularly convincing. A portion of the fanbase, including the regulars in First Touch’s section of San Siro, remain to be convinced by Spalletti’s 4-2-3-1 formation, with winger Antonio Candreva a particular target of anger for his perceived inability to cross the ball.

The Inter fans were also nervous at the untested midfield partnership of Roberto Gagliardini and Matias Vecino, while promising new defender Milan Skriniar was untested on the big scene of a derby in a sold out San Siro.

Attacking Threat

Milan were coming from two consecutive league defeats that had left manager Vincenzo Montella subject to questions about his future. The manager was having trouble finding his best formation among the throng of new summer arrivals, and has not been helped by the poor performances of marquee signing Leonardo Bonucci, who has been handed the captain’s armband on his arrival from Juventus but is failing to command his new defence.

Still, Milan possessed some decent attacking threats in Suso and new Portuguese striker Andre Silva, so the Inter fans were more nervous than expectant. As it turns out, those Inter fans were rights about Milan but wrong about Candreva. The rossoneri twice came from behind to level the score, with Suso scoring the first and creating havoc on Inter’s left flank throughout the second half.

But Candreva more than earned his keep, as after abjectly missing his first cross he seemed to find his “on” switch, and first served Mauro Icardi a perfect assist for Inter’s opening goal and then bossed his right wing and left to a standing ovation from the whole crowd.

Mauro Icardi Man Of The Match

Skriniar also had a huge game, while on the opposite end Bonucci was clearly at fault for Inter’s first two goals. And, of course, the man of the match was none other than Inter captain Mauro Icardi, who scored all three goals, including a penalty in the 90th minute that caused an explosion of joy among Inter fans

– Your intrepid reporter and his better half were both nearly knocked over in the pandemonium.

And so to Saturday’s big showdown in Naples, as the Serie A scheduling algorithm has served up a tantalising fixture between first and second, as Inter now trail Napoli by just two points in the table. Napoli will be the clear favourites, as the only team in a major European league to have won all of their (8) league games this season, and with top managers from Pep Guardiola to Jose Mourinho queuing up to praise the team and manager Maurizio Sarri.

Napoli will have to quickly rebound from their 2-1 defeat against Manchester City on Tuesday, as a buoyant and rested Inter will present the strongest test of their title credentials to date this season.

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